It’s one thing to get a baby woodpecker stuck in your hair and to have the whole thing captured on video. It’s another to have that video unexpectedly go viral (nearly 13 million views on TikTok alone), leading to interviews on CNN and Inside Edition and appearances on evening newscasts around the world. 

That’s the rollercoaster ride Brittany Bronson of Sanford has experienced this week after the run-in with the young pileated woodpecker, one of the largest breeds found in North Carolina. Bronson said she had walked outside of her west Sanford home on Monday after hearing a “bang” on her sun porch and found the bird hanging on to a window sill. The bird jumped, flapped its wings and went straight for her hair, getting its feet tangled almost immediately.

“I tried to get him back off my head on my own, but his feet had gripped onto my hair,” she said. “So I did the ‘walk of shame’ to my front porch and rang the doorbell.” 

Ringing the doorbell activated her Ring camera, which then captured the ensuing effort to remove the bird. Her brother — who was visiting with his girlfriend for a Memorial Day dinner — walked outside to help while a phone camera caught it all from a different angle. 

“What is going on?” her brother, Colton, asks as he answers the door. “Why is that thing on your head?”

Calmness — on the part of Bronson, her brother and the bird — is what has the internet most impressed by the video. Nobody freaks out while he removes the bird (gently) by the neck and sets it down. The responses on TikTok are quick to point that out:

“The calmness of that man to remove the screeching bird and his precision… brilliant.”

“Why does it look like this happens everyday? 😂 You are both so calm like this is a normal thing.”

“Ok but this man was very gentle with the bird. Even when he put it down so props to both of you for being calm n nice.” 

Others enjoyed the humor in it.

“Bird is screaming like he ain’t the one causin drama 😂.”

“When being a Disney princess gets real.”

“Sooo that episode of the staircase and the owl is true ?”

Bronson said she “popped the first video right on TikTok” afterward, because she thought it was a funny thing to share. A regular TikTok contributor with more than 200 posts in the past two years, she said the video started gaining traction quickly as viewers began asking questions and requesting more “in-depth coverage.” The cell phone video, as of this posting, is nearly 7 million views, and the Ring doorbell angle is up to nearly 6 million. Subsequent updates range anywhere from 10,000 to 500,000 views already.

Those updates have mostly been about the status of the bird. The morning after the incident, Bronson checked on the bird outside and saw it sleeping alone. She worried about its well-being, so she was put in touch with Holly’s Nest — a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center — to find a temporary home.

“They confirmed, because it was so young, that it needed help,” she said. “So in those videos, I added links in hopes that people would donate to them as we have done.” 

On Tuesday, she posted a video of the bird at its new home at Holly’s Nest, and on Wednesday, she posted a one-minute video touting Holly’s Nest and the work it does to rescue animals (a post with 21,000 views).

As the hits mounted on her TikTok videos, Bronson was contacted by CNN for a short remote interview about her experience. Next, it was Inside Edition, which did a nearly two-minute piece on Bronson and the bird. 

Now four days later, Bronson is amazed at the response her video has received. Outside of the TikTok views, Google search results for “woman with woodpecker in hair” spit out dozens of stories from news stations and wire services around the world. Articles now appear on Independent UK and Daily Mail UK, and Bronson has been contacted by the Today Show on NBC for a potential interview. 

“It’s just crazy the people it has reached,” she said. “Now it’s global, and it’s just mind blowing. My brother and I are still trying to figure out why it has been so popular. I definitely was humbled by the power of social media, and I’ve learned it really doesn’t take much for a video to skyrocket.”

— by Billy Liggett